« ÎnapoiContinuați »
CHAPTER ' I.
As we drift through the last quarter of the nineteenth century, amid the wreck of ancient superstitions, the time has come for all candid and impartial inquirers to determine their relationship with supernatural religion.
The most enlightened of modern communities accept some form of Christianity as the only possible religion assignable to divine revelation. If, therefore, its supernatural elements should perish in collision with scientific Rationalism, the theological vacuum cannot be filled by any other ancient or modern creed. We cannot become disciples of Buddha, Zoroaster, Confucius, or Mahommed; and the miraculous materials indispensable to the evolution of a new faith vanish at the touch of scientific analysis. A modern prophet, honestly believing and boldly proclaiming his supernatural mission in London, Paris, or New York, would find his signs and wonders so pitilessly tested by ruthless professors as to drive him in despair from the haunts of an uncongenial civilisation, in search of that primitive faith indispensable to the existence of miracles.
As our choice, therefore, lies between Christianity and Scepticism, we would forthwith hasten to study every word which fell from the lips of Jesus of Nazareth ; but as the religion established in his name is the offshoot of a more ancient theology, the supernatural pretensions of Judaism first claim our attention. Those who simply see in Jesus the illustrious Master of a great school in ethics may study the gospel apart from Moses and the prophets; but, as a divine revelation, the kingdom of heaven is inseparable from the kingdom of Judah.
On the threshold of inquiry we are arrested by the startling coincidence that Judaism, Christianity, and the Reformation all originated in assumptions shown by the lapse of time to have been popular delusions.
I. The Hebrew religion rests on the promise of Jehovah that, in consideration of national adoption of the rite of circumcision, the descendants of Abraham should occupy the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. If, therefore, the Hebrew patriarch could have foreseen Jehovah's violation of the solemn covenant, he would have, obviously, refused to ratify the fatal contract, which lured his descendants to destruction in the vain pursuit of a phantom empire; and the world would never have heard of a Chosen Race or a Peculiar People.
II. Christianity originated in faith that the Messiah should reappear in the clouds within a generation, to restore the kingdom of Judah, or establish the kingdom of heaven. If, therefore, the simple-minded communists, who parted with all their earthly possessions in enthu
i Gen. xvii. 8.